Speaking Engagements to Increase Your Annual Fund

100 Donors in 90 DaysWeek 8 of 100 Donors in 90 Days offers a compelling case to pick up the phone and begin to arrange speaking engagements for your development staff.  Or CEO. Or both. Why?  Because sometimes it feels as the only talks that your organization gives are to your inner circle and that you are preaching to the choir.  Or the choir’s closest friends. But the same type of engagement can be given to a wide range of groups – from civic organizations to corporations, religious institutions to other nonprofits.  And, they are easier to arrange than you think. Surprisingly easy.  It turns out, you can use speaking engagements to increase your annual fund.

Mazarine Treyz, Author of “The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising,”,had a  conversation with Pamela Grow that offers a three-fold approach to increasing revenue, particularly in small shops. She advocates for a combination of speaking engagements, volunteer management and volunteer recruitment (both as free labor in a small shop and based on the idea that volunteers give ten times the amount of an average donor.)  But, due to limited space of this article (and my hope that these highlights will encourage you to get your own copy of 100 Donors in 90 Days) I will focus on the first section – how one year of speaking engagements improved her nonprofit’s unsolicited donations from $12,000 to $70,000.

Where to Speak
Her tips were so simple, yet, beyond what I had ever considered.  It you think outside of a board member’s living room and into a larger organization or company you are exponentially increasing your resources.  The handout that accompanies Week 8 includes a plan for seven “days” of strategies to help you find these potential goldmines.   One suggestion includes examining lists of the most charitable companies in your area and calling their Human Resources department.  The organizations can use this type of talk as a way to encourage giving, volunteerism and awareness – presumably it is part of their overall mission (which is how they landed on the list).  The major advantages are that the staff of the company to whom you wish to speak sets up the meeting, calls catering, if necessary, and, most importantly, gets people in the room.  You just have to go in and tell your story.  And, make sure it’s a good story.

The Story
Mazarine uses a combination of a compelling story and statistics, but the key ingredient, to me, is that she includes at least one visual cue to trigger responses.    What kind of visual cue?  Something that directly relates both to your story and mission.  In a story that references a ring that an abuser uses to signal he is upset with his wife, could be suggested with a simple twisting of your own ring.  A workman’s glove laid on a table can represent an immigrant worker who is no longer alive due to horrible conditions.  Or an empty collar (or 300) can represent the dogs your organization couldn’t save last year but you hope to save this year.

These ideas are all simple yet incredibly effective.

I started to think about how I could do this with organizations with which I have worked.  What if I brought a film reel to talk about the importance of film versus DVDs? Could I bring a stack of talitot to highlight the kids that we were unable to engage and who, therefore, would not be having b’nai mitzvah this year? You can see how a visual cue could make an impact so much more

The Potential
You have the people in the room and engaged in your organization’s mission.  Now what?  Provide a form that will allow them to give on the spot, or tell you what days they are available to volunteer.  Allow them to connect however they feel comfortable.  But give them an easy opportunity to do so.

Then, consider where you can give your next talk.

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